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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writer... for the first time.

This is the first time in my life that I truly feel like a writer. It's strange to actually come to realize this; I have two degrees in English from highly competitive schools. When I signed up to do NaNoWriMo, the thing that came to mind were all those false starts, plot outlines never taken up again, etc. I remember listening to an interview in the Micheal Feldman show on NPR once--I can't remember who the writer was--but the person being interviewed said that the first draft is always terrible, that there was nothing anyone could do about that. All that one can do is keep on writing. I remembered this but it seems it never really sank in... until now. For NaNoWriMo I went back to my roots, to the first ever plot/draft/story I ever tried writing. I took the plot and revamped it, gave the protagonist a new name, and thought of new outlines. Going with the NaNoWriMo rules, I didn't begin to write until November 1st, but once I did the torrents came and flooded my imagination with ideas, new twists, etc. I am loving this process... and I just broke 40,000 words today!

For a long time I struggled with the feeling that I was a "poser" when it came to writing. I mean, I wrote almost everyday, filling Moleskine after Moleskine notebook, posting what I thought was not even halfway decent on my personal website, and feeling that if I went to write at Starbucks I would just be committing the worst sin of "poserhood." Not now, though. I have been writing at a cafe close to home and I can't even seem to keep track of time as words accumulate on the screen and page. The storyline is so clear in my mind, I can almost feel the warm sun while walking around Oxford (half the novel takes place there).

As a young English major in an undergraduate program full of some of the finest young writers in the country, I felt out of place for four years. Later, at Georgetown University for my Masters Degree, I was competing with the best of the best in theory and criticism. Needless to say, I never fitted in. I love my memories and years as a student, but they left me with insecurities about calling myself a writer. I remember reading Ernest Hemingway's "A Movable Feast," thinking what a wonderful thing it would be to simply realize that one is a writer. Today, while I was writing at the cafe, a young woman entered. She was very beautiful, and obviously waiting for someone (she kept calling on her cell phone). From time to time I would look up and see her reading the paper. Then I remember the passage from "A Movable Feast:"

"A girl came in the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair was black as a crow's wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.
I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited. I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone. So I went on writing.
The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.
I've seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil."

There are some obvious differences, of course. I was in no way interested in the young woman, and I even went out of my way to display my wedding band by scratching my face whenever I knew she was looking at me. I had no interest in making her "belong to me." I was drinking coffee and not rum St. James. I was using my computer, although I did have my Moleskine close at hand. But the fact that I remember this fine passage from "A Movable Feast" while in the act of writing, and made the connection to it made me incredibly happy for some reason or another. And so I concluded today's work with 3,000+ words and over 40,000 total. I am a happy man.... finally a writer!

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